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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  July 3, 2009 6:15pm-7:00pm EDT

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six minutes of um structure comments and then start the discussion. i have some questions for mark and komozi and then we would like the audience to príncipe and ask your questions and offer comments. hubert harris and lift from 1883 to 1927. he was a brilliant and influential class and race conscious writer, or a door, educator, critic and political activist. he was born in danish west indies and arrived in new york as a 17-year-old orphan in 1900 and he died at age 44 in bellevue hospital of appendicitis related condition. the historian rogers in great men of color, a mixed chapters on w.e.b. du bois, booker t. washington, marcus garvey and william juan wrote trotter described harrison as the foremost african-american and looked in his in iraq with the same program.
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philip randolph refers to harrison as do many others as the form father of her love radicalism. author schaumburg, the porter weaken bibliophile who was a pall bearer at harrison's massive harlem funeral, said that he felt harrison was ahead of his time and i think it is relevant because again, harrisons funeral world there were several thousand at his funeral suffuse popular that his time but much of what he says and rights has relevance i think for audiences still today. as a political activist terrorism's contributions were truly extraordinary. he played uniques signal rules in the largest class radical movement socialism and the largest race radical movement, the new negro slash car fi movement of his era and some historians say in u.s. history to that time.
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he was a leading black organizer, agitator and theoretician of the socialist party of new york. the founder of the new negro movement and its first organization, the liberty league and first newspaper, the waste. the editor of the movement's negro world and principal radical influence on the garvey movement. in addition, harrison was a self-described radical internationalist and he was extremely knowledgeable vietnam era and writer in order or on a africa, asia, the middle east, caribbean, latin america and the muslim world. he was also a union organizer for the afl, the hotel workers and pullman porters, postal unionist and prominent iww supporters and speaker of the 1913 paterson silk strike. he was a pioneer black activist in the free thought and birth control movements. he was a leader in urging the development of race conscious
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independent political voice for black people and urging support of black candidates responsive to the black community. in urging support for new york city's first elected black official and its importing a black candidate to run for president of the united states in 1920. harrison is a key figure in the 20th century black activism. he profoundly influenced a generation of new negro militants and common people including the class conscious philip randolph and race conscience marcus garvey. he was the class conscience of the race radicals and most race conscience of the class radicals of his day. he is i argue in the biography of the key idealogical linking the two great strengths of the liberation movement. the labor and civil rights to the end of randolph and martin luther king jr. and race in nationalist trend of garvey and malcolm x. that's the two trends the three of us grew up on.
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her reasonable also an extraordinary intellectual as early as 1903 the new york world headline genius found in the west indian people and describe how harrison despite working age of five days a week and two nights scored city-wide honors in his academic courses. he spoke or read at least six languages and by some accounts when he died, some of which werries said he reportedly read as many as six books today. i assume he was aggressively going after those books and that is a bit much. according to earnest and rose, the most respected librarian at the 135th street public library there was no one who took out more books in the public library than harrison. he was a tremendous proponent of the use of the free public libraries, of self education, and he wrote such winning editorials.
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he was a prolific and influential journalist. the new book as the hubert harrison biography which lou introduced but one that was down six years ago is the hubert harris and reader which includes 138 of his articles. we've been able to locate some 700 writings by hubert harris and in his short 44 year life span and we are in the process of placing all 700 available for free in an online searchable database on columbia university's rear book and manuscript library so everyone worldwide will have access to a hubert harrison. over the years, harrison would edit the masses to premier left literary publications of the decade between 1910 and 1920. the voice, the new newspaper of the movement. two years eight later he edited the newspaper. this is eight years and six years before the new lot and then he edited the negro world
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and ultimately his last publication was the voice of the negro. hubert harrison was reportedly the first regular black book reviewer in history. we've been able to identify some 68 to 70 book reviews that he wrote and they are all on all types of subjects. politics, history, science, religion, international affairs, poetry, literature and theater. he was a highly praised critic in the 1936 nobel prize winning playwright eugene o'neill lauded his review of the emperor jones and told harrison in a personal letter he would have a place in any theater that o'neal was involved with. he was an important supporter of black writers and artists including the charles gilpin, the actor, the musician to be bleak, the sculptor augustus savage, the poet and the writer jay rogers. he was a leading intellectual as a soap box or a door, as an actor for the board of
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education, as a lecturer for the four rooms and has consciously mass educated. he was a pioneer of soap box oratorian harlem and was instrumental in developing a tradition that was carried on by a fellow brand of, the chancellor of when, marcus garvey, richard p. more, many others and later by malcolm x. and finally, and i will in here for now, he was a bibliophile who along with arthur schaumburg was principally responsible. they were to of the four founding officers for helping transform the committee that set up what is now the schomburg center and they helped transform the 135th street public library in to the internationally famous center which is the premier and amendment library in the world for research on culture. so that is an overview of harrison and i still have a second volume to write so i can't tell you how pleased and excited i am with the two
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speakers we have, the panelists because they have done tremendous work, they have rich history of both scholarship and activism and i think what ever we are going to hear from them today is quite insightful. so, mark, i guess i would like to start with you and maybe you can speak a little bit about harrison and this soapbox oratory. >> i want to give some people some idea what the scope is of the tradition of soapboxes speaking that hubert harrison started in the community of parliament 1914. this is something that has disappeared from the world today but when i was a student at columbia in the 60's there were still speakers on 125th street was such as carlos coax, cooks and malcolm x built the nation of islam, but let me give you some idea of the scope of what harrison began.
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if the garvey movement was built from stepladders on harlem streets. the brotherhood of pullman porters will spilt from stepladders on harlem streets. the communist party built its base in harlem through street corner oratory often in competition with nationalist oratory is and remnants of the garvey movement. the great don't buy where you can't work campaigns which challenge the exclusion of blacks with the scores of harlem and spun off into public utilities and new york city was all build on stepladders and soap boxes. harlow's cooks from the internationalist carried the garvey tradition through the 40's into the fifties on a street corner in harlem and
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malcolm x to build the nation of islam in harlem from a small storefront organization into one of the nation's largest mosques. and the black panther party and the young lords party and sts all carried on that tradition through the 60's into the 70's. this all began with this amazing scholar activist educator, and i think we need to ponder what we are missing when we no longer have people like hubert harrison on our street corners educating all about politics. educating us about history. bringing people from different generations together. bringing the world to us by talking about asia and africa and latin america and the
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connections between the experience of different people. i think this is a book whose time has come because we need to reclaim this tradition especially for our young people who need this more than anything. and so that is all i want to say. this is a book for our time and this is a person who is legacy needs to be honored. >> that's wonderful and if i may add from paris and in the book you will see where harrison believed that intellectuals had to come down and makes amongst the people, and he was a leader in that and he spoke as many document in certain weeks he spoke as many as 23 times a week, morning, noon and night. crowds of thousands of appearing at some of the rallies and at one talk recorded in "the new york times" he went into the third hour speaking downtown at
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broad and wall street on socialism in front of the stock exchange. just extraordinary. komozi, i think you can probably phyllis and better than most on harrison's place in the tradition of black radical activists and intellectuals. i would say -- let me say obviously hubert harrison was the spoken word on this. that's what is going on with that and i think lifetimes we don't pay that much attention even that section in malcolm x. he's an inspiration to people like malcolm x. if they said malcolm x is studying the dictionary from eight to see which isn't a very good way to study. i feel with them and was like a painter studies colors, malcolm x knew he was going to use words so he studied the etymology of words so he could use them well
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in conveying the message that he had to the audience that he knew he was going to convey and that is i think what spoken artists today. malcolm x inspired a movement but hubert h. harrison is the missing kind of grandfather to that tradition. door discussion about loss of that tradition made me think of malcolm x obviously who was murdered for being so effective and walter rot me who was murdered for being so effective so i think we have been very clear that the reason that we don't have those leaders is because they were murdered. that's the sad thing about success, so we live in very repressive times and so, some of this stuff kids have migrated to other things because it is not that lethal, and so to restore the traditional we need to hopefully in this environment we have more freedom of speech so that you don't get killed for
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saying that. in my book the fbi document said the crime he committed was backed unity. so based on average critiqued you know why they went after marcus garvey and all these other leaders. if black unity is a crime that's why it's the communities in the state it's in right now. walter rot nei used to go to the mines on sunday and educate people as a professor. and the right now back then hubert h. harrison was in the community on the black arts people negative i met them in harlem at bookstores and on 125th street. kids today who are seeking knowledge can all find black intellectuals. they are at harvard, princeton and a deal so it is obscene that we have genius' peru gave this wealth of knowledge for free.
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and i got all my knowledge for free. and today, i met some of them in the yonkers community center the other day. bright eyed little girl, 12-years-old asked me how can i get into a new york science school? i want to be a scientist. but the school they are trying to send me to is a vocational school. so, i think that the stream that produced a hubert harrison is alive today. what we need to do is figure out how to let the stream flow freely so that these kids can flowerlike hubert h. harrison and not have to go to prison to learn how to read. so i guess what i'm saying is there is a natural progression. obviously much of the -- some of the scholars, sad to say without hubert h. harrison, people make foolish mistakes and interpretation. some of them good friends of mine so i'm not saying they're foolish but without harrison we
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don't have the right intellectual so sister beth bates on the point importers says that when randolph has the old black watch on washington movement he's using garvey, he is a garveyite. his teacher was he harrison store and of fostering what harrison said. combining socialism and black nationalism to that extent. obviously paul comes from that tradition and i think a final thing i will say is that there is a great you know, harrison had all these books. the schomburg center comes out of schaumburg house. so when people talk about the culture of poverty they must not be talking about our community because these institutions grow out of people's homes and communities. we are putting the cart before
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the horse. all the things we talked about come out of people's homes. he had a hell of a library. books i have not seen before so if you go into his house he's got a collection there and these homes just like they were in those times were canada centers where people got their education so even when the schools failed senate-passed they could go to the homes of a monk and learn the history and culture so to the extent that those things have been taken away from our communities to have truly left our communities poor for the first time because the other times people always -- to a certain extent jim crow was good for black intellectuals because there were all in the community so you talk to sonya sanchez, all these intellect was at the library.
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i used to bump into them in the bookstores. we have to put this tradition back where it belongs in the hands of these young people. they needed now more than ever. >> thanks, komozi. i want to pick up on a couple things you mentioned before i get to questions. when harrison came to the united states that first decade he and quite a number of other black working-class intellectuals created this vibrant community which i try to be till at length and they did it by setting up four runs and public events where they would talk and discuss and debate and was just stimulating and people like schaumburg, clerks and elevator operator, a postal worker. they created this plant community and vibrant community. harrison also lived his last 16 or 17 years west street.
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those of you in new york that was the densely populated area of harlem. the other thing you mentioned about the early death, there are a host of reasons i go into in the book why harrison isn't better known today although that is changing rapidly with the availability of his papers and information getting out now and other things like myriad bachus, quoting harrison in the recent election campaign. but harrison, when he died -- i met his children when i started research 25 years ago because his children were alive. new york and actually they were the ones who passed the papers on to me family passed on. for those of you not aware pierce papers are available of columbia adversity and they are is online 102 page finding anybody can download and see the scope of his riding and stuff and you can get that by going to the columbia university library. but his children when they were
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alive had suspicions about his own death although i said he died of appendicitis conditions in bellevue hospital they were always suspicious and he was one of the first black activists to be monitored by military intelligence during world war i as they would later monitor other black radicals and one thing a lot of people don't know is harrisons grandson ray richardson in july of 1967 started in boston a show called say brother which was the ball to the to the boston equivalent that start later and then ray went down to mexico with family and died mysteriously in the gulf of mexico and the family was always suspicious about that but that's purely anecdotal. what i would like to move into, mark, in terms of harrison's relevance today some things you could offer on because your idea of teaching black history and
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urban studies. >> i think the thing that komozi mentioned that intellectuals are now separated from people and i've been lucky enough to be in a community history project in the bronx were basically the people in the community ordered the scholars in my department to study their experience because history books were distorting how they lived and so the bronx african-american history project began. and once we did this i started getting invited me to speak in bronx middle schools and high schools and elementary schools and realized that it was an utterly unprecedented experience for somebody to talk about history who was a scholar immersed in research and books. and so, there is this powerful subornation, but there is an intellectual tradition in this
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self created for mccaul st literature which is now something the you see up and down the streets of our city. people who are not published by mainstream publishing houses writing and publishing their own books, and i think this gives us a plant is entry into a way of reconnecting intellectual life with the cultural life of people who are hungry for information but as we have become a more stratified society they are separated from it. and maybe the coming depression will push us back down to earth and reconnect us with people who have every right to the knowledge that we've accumulated we await to them. it's a there's. and this gentleman understood that.
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>> komozi come anything in terms of the global situation in that context? >> and think that some of the stuff that harrison said there was turmoil there now world war i and its situation today, he said we are facing a similar situation and he asked what, looking around the world, what difference did make what was happening in other places and he said maybe it makes some difference, maybe it makes not. but he said the change from the limbs of the young giant of black america as she rises stretches herself and sets up and takes notice. but let her for future state insisted on taking notice. to drop the figure of speech we africans who have shown our hearts must back gate by our mind. this world in the present is a white man's world even in africa. we, being what we are, want to shake loose the chains of his
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control from our corner of it. we must either accept his domination or inferiority or we must contend against it. but we go up to when and whether we carry that contest with ballots, bullets or business, we cannot win from the white man on less we know at least with the white man those. for after all, knowledge is power, and then he goes on what did the study, what did a study. he said not a greek and latin, they are willing us with knowledge of engineering, chemistry and i would add politics today. so i think that his message obviously read, read, read, is very important and particularly his emphasis on not necessarily having to go to the university. i mean, the fact that many universities now or $50,000 a year is obscene and i think the message we're sending young people if you don't go to
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university steve got to go to prison this genocidal. so i think we need to look at this book about harrison and realize the power we have in our own hands and communities with the we are going to use our churches or schools like he did. whether we are going to do it on the street corner or the library he helped found. all these public libraries and bookstores should be public education spaces. right? wouldn't, you know, some universities making enough money as it is, right? but we don't need to tie knowledge to money so strictly. so that people can't get an education if they don't have money. i never had a penny. people educated me. so if the world was then the way it is today i would be a dummy. people gave -- plus books were less expensive. these to be ten set pamphlets and 25 said pamphlets where you could get a lot of knowledge. you have books now that cost $50
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or something. i think we need to use the internet and all those -- but this knowledge should be free. and if obama is going to mean something as a president, we need his help on that to make knowledge free and then one of these kids like that little girl she is going to discover a cure for cancer, right? that is the potential. we need to stop thinking that it's only people in the ivy league's and market that's going -- hubert harris and understood the problems, the answer to these problems is going to come from below. >> one of the things in the biography, harrison's story is compelling. he is born of one parent who's been enslaved, another immigrant, plantation poverty, orphaned as 17, poverty his whole life and get asthma, you know, a brilliant intellectual activist as the bus really shows what we are capable of.
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i have some other quotes here but i would like to make this a community participation event. so if people have any questions, comments, or thoughts we are all years. yes, in the back. can you speak louder? >> i think they've got a microphone. >> sure. my question is if any of you have a comment concerning -- i have heard and i don't know if this is true or not -- is responsible for malcolm x. i don't know if that is true or not -- [inaudible] >> maybe we can go to a question about the book? >> yeah. right here. >> i want to thank you very much. the relationships between harrison and garvey and harrison and booker t. washington? >> okay.
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harrison was critical of booker t. washington. booker t. washington -- harrison considered washington to have a philosophy of subservience. harrison kept scrapbooks, which are available as one can see, and one was entitled the subservience. and he wrote several articles and 1911 and 1912 leading out his criticism, politically, economically, as booker t. washington's philosophy but what happened first even before that was 1910 booker t. washington went to europe. he went to london and denmark. he was wined and dined by royalty and basically issued press conferences and press releases saying everything was fine for african-americans back home. this was when plunging segregation and disfranchise that marred the land. a w ev to boys got together a group of 40 people who issued letters of protest and harrison, hubert harrison wrote letters to the new york sun that openly
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criticized booker t. washington. booker t. washington had a powerful political pressure and patronage machine referred to as the tuskegee machine. he took steps to have hubert harrison fired from the post office where he was working. and it scott was involved, charles anderson, a leading black republican because the party washington and black national leadership at that time was tied to the republican party. and edward morgan, building the post office. new york city at 29th street, the largest cities in new york, it's after the party washington papers. this was a devastating blow. harrison will eventually have a family of five children and after this he was in poverty for the remainder of his life. regarding marcus garvey, that's going to be volume ii. a much more complex relationship. many people don't know marcus garvey came to the united states if all the work of booker t.
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washington and washington died in the garvey was prepared to go back to jamaica when he saw harrison on a street corner and saw his tremendous appeal and his effectiveness reaching the audience and harvey decides to stay. when harrison colds the first meeting of his liberty league june 12, 1912 and the book by the way has a fascinating history of the development of this need for movement, a story that's never been told before and a new negro movement is like the black power movement of the 60's so it is a story worth learning. it's got many similarities. harrison has garvey speak. he invites him to speak at the first rally and then i go through in the book how over the next few years there is a gradual shift of some people from harrison to garvey for reasons which i go into in the book by 1920 garvey comes back and asks harris and to edit the negro world. harrison is a brilliant editor and takes the paper and sweeps
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the globe and harris in every paper he edited was very literary. it had book review sections, poetry for the people, he implemented west indian news notes. he had a broad vision and then by august 1921 the u.n. on a, marcus garvey's organization has a convention and he then develops criticism to garvey which he details in his diary which are suggested some of them are outlined in his first book and have got to go into great depth in the second volume. >> can i say something on that? >> sure. >> this book and harrison putting him in equation changes the way we write about black history. we shall late talk about the debate between the court to washington and wa be the voice so you have got booker t. washington as a proxy for ordinary people. and the beebee to place was the ev test but the workers had their own voice like harrison and many other people, they had
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workers thinking for themselves and they had their own voice. so -- and i too close to the microphone? so, i think the changes the way we talk about it before is a ping-pong match or something like that and working people are just watching it and then not thinking for themselves but they have their own voice and matter-of-fact i start this niekro movement and in terms of the spoken word thing i was saying earlier in the street education thing there's a companion book that's called grassroots garveyism and she focuses on the negro world as the vehicle under harrison's editorship. let's remember, the negro world we report on and samite held on york, new jersey and people in johannesburg south africa to read about that and try to mimic that they might have a rally of 500 people in new york, 5,000
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might meet in johannesburg. so it's a global apparatus and in some places, young people would get the memorize the newspaper and then run through the villages and recites the paper to people. this was a movement and the spine was the newspaper and i think we have lost that whole tradition and we don't understand -- when we are looking at the written record you might be looking at 100 the size of these movements. the newspaper is the spine, the infrastructure and then it stands out because people are repeating these words the way in a barber shop to talk about. that shows you a highly organized mass movement and it talks about -- we have kind of done some of this with the obama campaign. in many ways, obama is consolidating the lessons from this earlier movement and using some of the best practices of having a mass movement and he is using a modern technology where
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they were using -- even when they had less technology let's remember marcus garvey and harrison have a global -- people say well, obama can't do it. if lardy could do it, with what he had, you mean to tell me you couldn't do it from the white house? that doesn't make no sense. he could do a lot. if marcus garvey could communicate with people globally, he just got to the country and he did that. he didn't have a pot to piss in. he got the money from the people. so we need to have a higher standard of achievement and stop talking about the slow standard. let's understand what we have done and then we will understand what we will do in the future. >> right here. >> i want to thank little bit to the question about the street corner or orators and the end of
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a lily in our communities. i come out of the black book industry, so as early as the early 80's that book you have on your table there, when africa weeks is written by a good friend of mine, paul coates, who actually runs black plastic press and as you know, a lot of those particular book publishing houses developed during that particular time. during that particular time also you had serious street corner speakers that literally would go on the downstream, like davis, our third read, and then the precursor to malcolm x was louis mitchell in his book store on 125th street. the other and it features some of them went inside. in harlem we had african world alliance or first world alliance which was a lecture series given
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by african scholars from throughout, and you know, the community that was part of the development of the renaissance of the inroads of the new black book industry that created over the street corner vendors that you see now up and down 125th street and in brooklyn and queens. originally they started with historical material, educational material. i found mason spoke communist in harlem on the tables back in the early 80's. now, the fish you hear is that as you know in this society you have trend is up and down and at this particular point a lot of the same industry is being saturated by, you know, novels and fiction, very, very limited caliber and regard to information, but that is, you
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know, the trend of today. and a lot of those scholars that existed during that particular period of time still exist today. and they have in forms. or from newark new jersey. i'm from the work new jersey i live right around the corner and one of the things we had in newark was we also had african echo, a lecture series in newark the last 25 years so some of these things are happening consistently in our community. we just have to make ourselves available to that type of information and that type of activity that goes on in our cony nt and i am pretty sure we will get the same result. as far as my education is concerned i learned from them. i sat at the feet of people like dr. clark and james turner and a variety of other scholars that
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exist right here in newark and in new jersey area. but other than that i want to ask jeff a question. one is, you know, you talked about the military intelligence that was heavily involved and, you know, destroying a lot of these, you know, organizations. one of the things that was talked about and robert hill's eight volumes on the unia papers, harrison testified twice for the military intelligence bureau. one of the divorce issue between garvey and amy. he testified on that and then second, it regards, you know, garvey's issue of freud. can you speak to that question? >> yeah, i know there was -- i'm not so familiar with the first
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when you're talking about harrison testifying on the divorce issue. maybe it's been a while since i've been looking at the second volume so i will put that down. but harrison was called in to get some testimony, as were a lot of people. a lot of people were called in, and harrison -- this is one of the things we will get into in the second volume. harrison was very suspect some of the financial workings of the unia in the black star line and he documents and writing his differences and that will come out and that is why i say the second volume is going to be very controversial because he raises a lot of questions. i saw in his papers and letters esol from people who lost their money on these things, so that will be -- one thing about these biographies it is going to tell a whole story. we are not going to hold anything back because i firmly believe that we've learned by putting out the truth as best we can and we will all learn good and bad. we have one more question here. one more question.
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this gentleman right here. yes. >> yes, it would be very helpful if you would share with us how scholars like harrison and garvey managed to bridge the gap between africans in the states and the west indies. >> i will offer something, and then, you know, the co panelists can. but harrison, when he came to the united states -- he is from the caribbean -- i mentioned the vibrant intellectual community. these lyceum's on 53rd street, st. mark's and st. benedict's work meeting places where the afro caribbean and african americans would need and there was tension in the beginning because this was another immigrant group. one thing that's fascinating about harrison, i mentioned his mother was from barbados. in st. croix he's an immigrant
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and then he is an immigrant here. i look back and piece this together and sense of that is part of the breadth of his experience, the internationalism. he understands from the bottom and he understands the immigrant status and immigrant life and so, in answer to your question, the lyceum's were a place where the people were able to come together, develop, artery and schaumburg, looking back on that author schaumburg talking about harrison says st. benedict linus trademark was also the germ of racial consciousness in new york city. >> i would also say don't assume that african-americans were isolated from the main intellectual and cultural currents of the world. harlem was a community where you had a large jewish population, a large finished population, a large irish population and they were aware of zionism, irish nationalism.
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and so this internationalism was something that was part of the african-american community as well. and there had been -- look, they're had been international movements led by bliden and others throughout the centuries of this wasn't such a difficult coming together as some people might think. >> about it would seem as if many of these organizations as the fusion was taking place, right, like the schools on the one hand, but the unia, all these groups -- what's it now the african brotherhood. he would, african-american, meets sarah briggs, west indian. some these organizations in many ways fictive kinship. the names, sisterhood's, brotherhood, the black churches, sisters of brothers, right? so these fictive kinship is performing. it's a cultural thing.
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but they are forming in that early stage. sometimes we need to look of these organizations themselves and that's where the fusion -- many of these black power organizations were fusing people from different -- you had west coast people and east coast people fusing. even those differences were tight as you could see with of the rap industry and beyond that. so i think we need to look at these organizations and see that one function is surfing is to meld people together. they're living together, thinking together, sacrificing together and their children in that intermarrying and we make a community. and we started out backwind haitians first came to filling in the 17 nineties after the revolution. it changed the music, the beat, the dance, the culture. that's where african-americans are. schaumburg is an example. his portrait in and becomes african-american and mary is black women, it also a good way, he married to black women
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obviously in sequence. [laughter] >> i am told we are going to have to stop. i want to mention one more thing about the book to wrap it up. this book is the product of 25 years of research. it's the first volume of a two volume biography. the second volume will hopefully be out within a few years. you will see four or five pages of acknowledgements. i can't stress how in putting together harrison's story virtually everyone who was ever asked there is a great hunter out there for information on hubert harrison. he has come as komozi says on the back of the book he is still laugh and sister. i just came back from st. croix where the response was overwhelming. people want to know about him. the book has 12 chapters. three sections discuss his roots and early intellectual development in his class radicalism and in the founding of the new negro movement is

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